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FCC Chairman Looking for Patient Monitoring Broadband Spectrum

May 18, 2012
by Gabriel Perna
| Reprints

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski, recently joined healthcare IT vendors GE Healthcare (Chalfont, St. Giles, U.K.) and Philips Healthcare (Andover, Mass.) to unveil a proposal that would allow for allow greater use of spectrum for Medical Body Area Network (MBAN) devices. These devices can be used for technologies like wireless patient monitoring, which allow healthcare providers to check on a patient outside a hospital setting.

The FCC will consider adopting the new rules at its Commission meeting next week.

The FCC says this proposed rule would make the United States the first country in the world to allocate spectrum for MBAN devices.  The government agency says greater access to spectrum would allow for a healthcare industry revolution, a reduction of costs, and increased effectiveness of patient monitoring.

In the category of patient monitoring, the FCC says there are specific examples where this increased spectrum could be advantageous. Fetal telemetry, which is a small, lightweight, and noninvasive way to continuously monitor a baby’s health, while allowing the mother to move freely, is one such demonstration of MBAN. Others are LifeLine Home Care Pendants, a device which collects health information for the elderly or those with chronic diseases at their homes, Predictive and Early Warning Systems are another monitoring device.

According to the FCC, 50 percent of all patients in US hospitals are not monitored.  “MBANs provide a cost effective way to monitor every patient in a healthcare institution, so clinicians can provide real-time and accurate data,” the government agency says in a report.  It cited a study from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, which said a monitored hospital patient has a 48 percent chance of surviving a cardiac arrest—this number plummets as low as six percent without monitoring. It also said the monitoring could cut down on readmissions and costs.


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